An influential thought leader once said “Americans are good at selling. The British are good at presenting”. Recently I took some Americans out to do some sightseeing in central London. My attempts to explain about landmarks in Westminster, on the South Bank and in the West End brought out a side of me that I don’t reflect about very much nowadays – my presentation skills – honed through years of leading, devising and participating in projects all over the UK.
When I started creating music theatre pieces many moons ago, I attracted criticism from some quarters because I was an auteur artist – in other words, I created my own scripts, composed the music and performed central roles in my pieces.
The critics were preoccupied with the fact that I was able to speak my truth effectively on stage with minimal reliance on others.
A colleague who supported my artistic development at that stage on my journey told me to ignore the critics, because he felt they were jealous of some of my personal attributes. He even alluded to the tone of my skin complexion – not as a racial issue, but more related to “colourism” amongst Black people. The package I presented of apparent eloquence and “rootsy” physicality was stirring up emotions in some people that lie outside the limits of my control.
I have been fortunate enough to have ample opportunities to support other people (especially youngsters) in making the most of their personal attributes in their presentation skills. I guess we should all make the most of the cards we’ve been dealt in life.